I have a love-hate relationship with core work. I love what it has done for my running and my overall fitness, but for some reason I still hate to do it. It’s arguably the most important cross-training you can do and certainly the simplest and it takes the least amount of time, so why doesn’t core work get more love? I can get into a routine for long periods of time where I’m really good about core work, but then I’ll start slacking again. As soon as I do, though, I notice a difference – my back aches after a long run or even after work.
In my efforts to re-commit to core work, here’s a little photo essay of why it’s easy and fun. This entire routine takes about ten minutes (just two or three times a week and you’ll see results) and only requires one piece of equipment – a stability ball I picked up at Target two years ago for about 20 bucks.
Let’s start with the basics. I almost always do these first because I hate them the most. Must be 8th grade PE flashbacks or something, but sit-ups make me cringe. I do 25 of these.
Next, I do something easier. This is how I motivate myself to do the whole routine – I alternate between easy moves and hard ones. The easy ones are like a reward. This one can be done with a medicine ball, too, if you’d like a little more challenge. I love working my obliques because this is a move that you can totally see results from – these are your “six pack” muscles. I do 25 in each direction.
Okay, back to something more difficult – push-ups! I do 25 of these. Positioning the ball all the way at your feet is the most challenging, and putting it closer to your waist makes them easier. I usually aim for somewhere near my knees.
Yay, time for something easy again! These are super simple and really good for your back. Just be sure not to hyper-extend. I do 25 of these.
Okay, time for some glute work! I do 25 of these on each leg. Good form is really important on any sort of squats – don’t let your knees go past your toes. Focus on keeping your weight in your heels and pushing your booty back. Since I used to be a preschool teacher, I sing the song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” while I’m doing this one to remind myself to keep my shoulders, knees and toes in line. Ha, ha!
Lower yourself into a squat (note the shoulders, knees and toes). For me, this is so much harder than it looks! I am balance-challenged. I’ll post some of the maaaaaaaany outtakes of me falling off the ball on this one!
BRIDGE and BRIDGE CURLS
I know these don’t really qualify as “easy” but wait ‘til you see what comes next! I start with a straight Bridge for 30 seconds, then do 25 Bridge Curls. These are good for your back, your glutes and your hamstrings.
I have no idea what these might really be called. I saw Apolo Ohno doing this exercise on one of those Olympics blurbs about the athletes and he made it look so easy, I thought I would give it a try. OMG, the first time I did this I could only do FOUR reps! It works your lower abdominals, which are the weakest of my core muscles. I’ve worked up to 15 reps on a good day, but mostly I make myself do 10.
I save these for last, not because they’re easy, but because I absolutely love them! Working my arms makes me feel so strong and you will definitely see the results of this one – no more “bingo arms” that keep waving after you’ve stopped! I do 25 of these.
Start by sitting on a firm surface (you can use a couch, a table or a chair) with your legs straight out in front of you and your feet on the ball. Brace yourself with straight arms, but don’t lock your elbows.
And that’s it! Anybody (including me!) can take ten minutes out of their day to be a better runner, a better cyclist, a better athlete. Show your core a little love today.